It seems like just yesterday we were talking about how to prepare for sleep issues your children may face as they start their summer vacations. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun.
As you can imagine, transitioning a child into “back-to-school” mode after a long summer of fun activities can be difficult on many levels. The recommendation I give to my parents with regards to sleep, is to approach the transition gradually. Progressively changing sleep time slightly ahead, will make the shift much less abrupt for your child.
During the summer months, it’s easy for us to be less concerned about our child’s bedtime. If they didn’t have to get up as early for camp, or if they were having a later afternoon nap, they may have gotten into the habit of falling asleep at a later time. If you transition their bedtime back to “school time” too abruptly, this could cause them difficulty falling asleep, and potentially lead to your child resisting going to bed.
In the few days, or one week leading up to school, begin to adjust your child’s bedtime gradually. Intervals of 15-30 minutes each night is a moderate approach that should be easy for your child to handle. Each night, have your child go to bed 15-30 minutes earlier, and each morning begin getting them up 15-30 minutes earlier, until they are back on track with their school sleep schedule.
How Else Can You Help With the Adjustment?
Start a New Book for Back-to-School
When you are going “back-to-school” shopping, pick out a new bedtime story or novel to read together at bedtime. This may give your child something to look forward to when they go to bed at night. Be sure to tuck them in comfortably, before you begin to read, so they can settle into sleep once you have finished reading.
Keep the Blinds Closed
Because the days are still long in September, be sure to keep your child’s blinds closed when they go to bed. Sunlight can prohibit the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, so make sure their room is nice and dark!
Help Manage Anxiety
Kids going back to school, or young ones heading to school for the first time, may experience some anxiety. This anxiety could be brought on by the change to their schedules, or the thought of the unknown experiences they are about to face. This anxiety may keep them up at night if they are constantly running through “what ifs?” in their head before they fall asleep. Be sure to talk to your child about any concerns they may have, so they can talk things through with you. Speaking with Mom or Dad can often help put a child’s mind at ease. A tip: visually walk your child through their first day back at school. This is an excellent exercise that can help your little one feel better prepared for back to school, and hopefully help to manage some of that anxiety they may be feeling.
Once your child is back to their school sleep schedule, be consistent with their bedtime. Be mindful of extracurricular activities, as these can often have you and your child busy with activities until later in the evening. Try also to keep dinnertime at the same time each night. This can be challenging, but the more consistent you can be with all activities, the more consistent your child’s sleep schedule will be, and ultimately the better rested they will be.
Your children going back to school, or starting school for the first time is a big adjustment for everyone. In addition to a change in their schedule, parents emotions may be running high as they realize their little ones are growing up. A good night sleep will allow your body to get the proper rest, and recovery required to handle this adjustment in your lifestyle. As you work to regulate your child’s sleep schedule, don’t forget parents need sleep too. My sleep success plans and one-on-one training, can help get your entire family back to sleep. I offer a variety of plans to help suit anyone’s budget or unique needs, and always look forward to working with new families.
Please let me know if you found this information helpful.
Angela Walsh is a Family Sleep Institute, Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant and the founder of Babes in Sleepland. She helps sleep deprived babies, children and families, get back on track and get the sleep they need and desire. To learn more about Angela and how she can help you, visit her website: babesinsleepland.com. Also get sleep tips, the latest research on baby and child products, and be part of her weekly Q and A at her Facebook page: Babes in Sleepland.